Career advice we should ignore

The most common career tips are:

  • "Just be yourself"
  • "Let your achievements speak for themselves"
  • "Focus on your strengths"
  • "Follow your passion"

Data and research suggest that it is better to ignore this kind of advice as it is often harmful, even if it feels intuitively right.

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Self Improvement

In work settings, people don't want to see your unfiltered and unchecked personality. In job interviews, people are interested in the best version of you.

What to do: In any high-stakes situation, you will be rewarded if you manage your public image and display self-control. The best approach is to read the room and work out what is expected of you. Then be emotionally intelligent enough to change your behaviour accordingly.

In the perfect world, you would not need to promote and brand yourself. But in the real world, style will get you farther than substance. Research shows that connections, impressions, and showmanship beat talent and potential.

What to do: Your brand is more important to your career success than your work. This means you should learn how to (humbly) be your loudest cheerleader. Observe people in power and try to understand what problems they want to solve. Then show and tell how you can help.

Focusing on your strengths is much easier than keeping your weaknesses in check. But this exactly what you need to do. For example, the smartest person who lacks empathy and humility will seem arrogant and cold.

What to do: If you want to adapt to the real world and make a strong impression, celebrate your strengths, but also make a point to identify your weaknesses. Knowing your shortcomings may drive you to get better at it.

This is only useful advice if your passion aligns with the job market demand. Passions are also short-lived - you may be passionate about writing, but next year you might be passionate about animation. Narrowing down on your passion and the industries you love will limit your perspective and hamper your development.

What to do:

  • In your 20s, think about matching your interests and potential to available opportunities.
  • In your 30s, shift your focus from earning short-term rewards to making a long-term impact.
  • Strong interests are "nice-to-haves," but flexibility is more beneficial.

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